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CHAPTER 27 ~ BLISS

"Daaaad... you're hovering."

"I'm not. I'm learning. You said yourself that I can't cook for crap."

"I was just kidding. You make good beans on toast."

Valois glanced at Gunther and grinned as he stirred the pot of bolognaise sauce. "Beans on toast, eh?" he murmured.

"Oh, don't you start."

"That smells sooooo good," Mortimer piped up again from his seat at the table, where he was waiting with as much patience as a very hungry teenager could muster. "Is it nearly ready?"

"Almost," Valois said. "Perfection takes time, you know." He shook some herbs into the pan, added a pinch of salt, and stirred it again. "Did you know this is your father's favourite dish?"

"Nope. We never had it at home. Well, I don't remember Mum ever cooking it for us, anyway. Did she know it was your favourite, Dad?"

"Yes," Gunther said softly. "She did."

"Oh." Mortimer fell silent for a moment as he watched Valois coax the steam up so he could gauge whether the meal was ready.

"I think," Valois announced, "that perfection has been attained. Gunther, would you drain the pasta for me, please?"

"If you trust me not to burn it along the way." Gunther winked at him, hefting the pan off the hob and tipping it carefully into the stainless steel colander in the sink.

"I'm staaaarviiiiinnnng!"

"The stomach of a teenager waits for no man," Valois chuckled, dishing up a plate for Mortimer first. "There. Now eat slowly. Don't burn your mouth."

He dished up two more generous platefuls for himself and Gunther, and they both sat down to eat.

"Mmfrl frbrughlss!"

Gunther's fork hesitated halfway to his mouth. "I'm pretty sure your mother and I raised you not to speak with your mouth full, son," he murmured.

"Sorry. Wow, this is fabulous! Where'd you learn to cook like this?!"

"Well... I lived alone for a few years," Valois said. "I purchased books and taught myself to cook. Plus, as a Frenchman, you might say that cooking is in my blood."

"You'll teach Dad, right? I mean, he's okay at it, but he's never had to bother much about it before. Mum always cooked for us."

"Am I invisible, or something?" Gunther remarked between mouthfuls. "Damn, Valois, this is the best spaghetti bolognaise I have ever tasted. And I've eaten the stuff in Italy, and still nothing comes close to this."

"Thank you, mon cur." Valois smiled at him.

"That's French for 'my heart', isn't it?" Mortimer asked, as he scraped the last droplets of bolognaise sauce from his plate.

"It is indeed." Valois sat back, ghosting a linen napkin across his lips and watching the boy. "You are learning French at school?"

"Yeah. Well, I was." Mortimer put down his knife and fork with a look of disappointment that the food was all gone. "That and Latin."

"Latin?" Valois arched an eyebrow. "Now that is unusual. Why such an arcane language?"

"Oh, prep school and stuff." Mortimer shrugged as Gunther finished his meal and sat back, quietly. "I don't think they do Latin at Sunset Valley High, though, so I'll probably just keep on with French."

"That is a shame. Latin is viewed as a dry and stuffy old language, but it has its beauties and nuances." Valois sighed. "But French - ah! - now you have a native tongue to assist you with your French homework, hm?"

"Would you?" Mortimer's eyes lit up. "Thanks! Uh, can I leave the table please, Dad?"

"Of course. Valois and I will wash up."

"Thanks. Gonna go try out my new sketchbook and pencils."

Luxuriating in a hot bath a couple of hours later, Gunther stared off into space and let himself finally relax. Mortimer and Valois seemed to get along incredibly well, for which he was so damned grateful that he had no words for it.

At this moment in time, everything felt perfect. His little boy - well, not so little now - was home. Valois was with them. And he was free of Cornelia's tyranny, although he couldn't help but feel a little heartsick at what had happened to her. Nobody deserved that, not even Cornelia.

What he hadn't yet figured out, as he got out of the bath and pulled the plug, was how he was going to handle the whole 'Gunther Goth has a boyfriend, right after his wife went mad' thing, because... yeah. That was going to look really fucking bad to the good people of Sunset Valley, who had always held him in such high esteem.

He sighed, towelling himself down and then wrapping a fresh towel around his waist. He could always let Valois handle the townsfolk - god knows he'd shown he could do it in the past - but he couldn't exactly make them forget, because Mortimer would inevitably talk about it at some point with his peers. And it would be awful for him if he was insisting something was true and his friends didn't know what the hell he was going on about--

The toothbrush stopped and Gunther stared at the wall, frozen for a moment with toothpaste foam on his lips. Then he shook his head and carried on brushing, wondering vaguely why the hell he'd stopped.

A light was still shining under Mortimer's bedroom door, and Gunther knocked gently on the wood. "C'mon, son. Lights out," he said softly, earning himself a small complaining moan from the other side.

"Okay, okay," came Mortimer's muffled voice, and then he heard covers being flung back, a mattress being slumped onto, and the click of the lamp. The light went out beneath the door, and he smiled.

"Goodnight. Love you," he murmured.

"Love you, too," came the already-sleepy mumbled reply, and he made his way into his bedroom.

Valois was already naked on the bed, but he rose to his feet as Gunther entered.

"I trust that your bath was a pleasant one?" he asked, taking Gunther into his arms and pulling him close. One hand slid possessively into Gunther's hair, while the other clasped the side of his waist. "Hmmm, you smell wonderful."

"Nothing like a good, hot bath," Gunther murmured into the kisses that rained down onto his mouth. "And you always smell wonderful. I wish I knew what scent you used. It's like incense."

"You like it, hm?" The hand on Gunther's waist tucked beneath the towel and tugged it off. "Ah, now that's much better," Valois whispered, tugging Gunther even closer, skin-to-skin. "Is Mortimer asleep?"

"He's well on his way there. His bedroom's just the other side of that wall, though, so... uh..."

"Well, I could make sure that he sleeps deeply and doesn't wake until morning." Valois kissed Gunther, slow and deep, until Gunther's knees started to fail him. "Or," he continued, pulling just a breath away, "you could try to be very very quiet."

"No spells," Gunther said immediately. "Not on him. I'll be quiet, I promise."

"And, if you are not, there is always this." Valois pressed his palm across Gunther's mouth, and that did it: Gunther moaned softly and melted against him, aching and desperate, begging, "Please! Please!" against that controlling hand.

"Oh, now that is my favourite sound in the world," Valois groaned, his voice almost raw. "I swear, one day I shall gag you, maybe blindfold you, place a collar around your neck and cuffs around your wrists, and you will know what it is to feel owned, and to belong so utterly and completely. You will feel as if you have come home, mon me, mon cur, ma vie."

At those words, Gunther's eyes flew open and he stared up at Valois, still silenced by that hand. Oh god, was that what Valois wanted?! No! No, he couldn't do that!

Valois was looking down at him, smiling tenderly. "Your blood cries out for it, my beautiful one," he murmured. "Only your mind rebels; your waking consciousness that simply must stay in control at all times. I am your safe harbour, mon cur. The ship of your soul can rest easy against mine."

He took his hand away to allow Gunther to speak. It took a moment, as Gunther swallowed and scoured his tongue over his lips.

"I... I don't know," he whispered. "That sounds so... permanent. I mean, maybe we could try... but just for one night or something? One session?"

"Of course," Valois soothed. "I would not dream of expecting such commitment from you without one trial run, or indeed without many. Whatever it took for you to feel comfortable with it."

"And if I didn't feel comfortable with it?"

"Then it would remain a thing for occasional play, if we felt such a thing was something we wanted at the time, hm?"

Slowly, Gunther nodded. "All right. But maybe just a couple of hours at first? And not when Mort's around."

"We can wait until he is at school, certainly. Now, mon cur, let us forget that and lose ourselves amid the sheets on your bed." Valois kissed him again, adding against his mouth, "it has been too long since I felt your body beneath mine."

"Oh god, yes."

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